Ahh the horror of having to prepare for your first ever flight with your little baby. I was genuinely scared of flying with my little fig. She was only five weeks when she flew for the first time and was just so small and fragile, I really didn’t know how it would go.
My first flight journey:
The first thing I had to do was sort out Maria João’s passport. We had already taken her passport photo and had collected the passport forms from the post office. Now this application process turned out to be a lot more complicated than expected. Not because it is a complicated situation in itself, but because when I called the passport helpline I received four different types of information when inquiring about what paperwork is needed. The reasoning behind my questions is because when only one parent is British, there seems to be more paperwork needed. I ended up booking an appointment for fast-track one week service. I wanted to get the passport as soon as possible, so that we could book our tickets to go home to Lisbon. One vital thing needed to have a complete form, is to ensure I had a countersignatory, someone that can identify MJ’s identity. I had a close family friend who is a civil servant, countersign the form. So I took MJ’s birth certificate, our passports and the forms to the appointment. Once that was all handed in, I received her passport in less than a week, which was great for us. On a little side note; my little fig looks nothing like her passport photo and she has to have until she is five years old, poor girl!
So the flights were now booked and I now needed to begin to pack for a five week old baby, going on a two week holiday back home. We went to Lisbon at the end of September, but the weather was still around 30 degrees.
I began a checklist of what was needed and had the following on there:
-Pram, carrycot, car seat
-Carrycot+Car seat net and rain cover
-Car seat sun/wind cover
-Pram Gate Check Bag x1
-Carseat Gate Check Bag x1
-Carrycot sheets x2
-Nipple Shields x3
-Sun Cream for baby
-Blankets x3 (x2 thin, 1x thick)
-Short Sleeve Body x12
-Long Sleeve Body x12
-Dribble Bibs x4
-Changing Bag: pack of nappy bags x1, nappy creams x2, nail cutter x1, nail file x1, changing mat x1, wipes x2, Aloe Vera body cream x1
In my changing bag for the plane, I pretty much had what I would usually have on a regular day out. With the most important being to have two sets out clothes, as I was sure we would need it.
I felt quite well prepared for our first flight with her. Our flight to Lisbon was the first TAP flight leaving Heathrow at 630am. I purposely booked an early flight to avoid all the afternoon/evening madness you get in airports, especially at Heathrow. We had to wake up super early and it killed me having to wake her up from her sleep, but luckily she didn’t make too much of a fuss. Booking an early morning flight with a newborn baby was the best thing I did. We got to the airport around 4 am and it was pretty much empty, which was exactly what I wanted. We had one suitcase each, and all of Maria João’s clothes were in a trolley bag that would stay with me on the plane along with the changing bag. I checked in her car seat and took the carrycot pram to the gate with me. I had wrapped the car seat up in a lot of bubble wrap and placed it in the car seat gate check bag that I had bought.
We checked in our bags and headed to security, where there was no queue! Yes, no queue! Can you believe it? I was so happy that I was able to slide through security without having to be hot, sweaty and stressed out whilst holding a newborn in my arms. All the security staff made such a fuss over MJ and were very sweet and helpful. I got my jacket, shoes, changing bag etc all on to the belt and then had to get my little fig out of the pram. We grabbed some breakfast and headed over to the gate. At the gate I had to place the carry cot and pram folded into the gate check bag. I bought these because I didn’t want the pram to get wet, when on it’s way to the plane and also didn’t want the pram having contact with a dirty luggage room on the plane or people’s hands on it. It may sound extreme, but when it comes to germs and my baby, I am extreme. Whilst I was folding the pram away, I had asked João to change MJ’s nappy before the flight. I suddenly heard my name being called, and it was João shouting across the gate area and pointing to our little baby. I ran over to him scared and worried as to what had happened to her. And all it was, was that she had vomit quite a bit all over herself and him in that precise moment. Why do dad’s freak out when something like this happens? I had run over to him with the changing bag in my hand and took her back to the changing room for her first outfit change of the day. We were the first to board and were happy when we saw that once the entire flight was on board, there was no one sitting next to us. The air hostess came up to us, gave us her little belt and explained everything in detail in regards to safety with our baby. I then asked if we could later take a photo in the cockpit as a memory of her first flight and also get a first flight certificate from the airline. My mum was the one that had told me about this and had got a certificate for all of us five children on our first flights. Unfortunately, TAP don’t do that anymore, but they were very sweet and got one of their welcome cards that they use for their elite members signed by the entire crew, with the flight details on it too, so that was a very sweet touch. I breast fed Maria João during take off and can you believe that she slept the entire flight. We were so so proud of our little fig. We had no idea what to expect, so she really exceeded any expectations we had. I breastfed her again during landing and she continued well rested. João was embarrassed to go in the cockpit with me because he thought I was being too cheeky, but of course later regretted it when he realised what a great keepsake the photo is! She seems quite grumpy in the photo, which she was because she had just woken up. But despite that it’s a memory to keep forever.
Our return flight was also very smooth, and she slept through the entire journey again. Although we did do two things differently. Whilst in Portugal we went to see a pediatrician and he had told us to do the following. Because the air conditioning in aeroplanes is so strong, even if you have your mini one turned off, it really affects the babies breathing by causing a blocked nose, and can also lead to a cold. And this is exactly what happened to Maria João. Even though she was wrapped up well, after the flight she unfortunately had a blocked nose for a while. So he prescribed us to buy Neo-Sinefrina. These are nasal drops specifically for babies. He told us to give this to her 10m before take off. It helps with the breathing and avoids getting a blocked nose and I felt it really did work wonders. A similar equivalent to this in the UK, would be to use sterile saline solution. Calpol and snuffle babes also have nasal drops. We also did not send off the car seat at check in and took it with us to the gate. Instead, we sent off the carrycot all bubble wrapped up, just like we had done with the carseat initially. When we landed in Lisbon and my cousin picked me up, we took forever trying to rip off the bubble wrap without any scissors, to be able to place her in it. We go to and from the airport by car, so it made sense to have the car seat with us instead of the carrycot. I also placed my baby wrap sling in my changing bag to be able to place her in it once we would land as due to where the plane sometimes parks, you are left unable to get the pram straight and only at oversized luggage. It was so much better having the sling then having to carry her for an over twenty minute walk from the plane to luggage collection.
At a month a half old, my little fig had been on two flights and was an absolute heroin in both of them. Despite it all having gone very smoothly, I did want to hold off flying until Christmas time. But being away from João’s parents was hard. They, of course, really missed her and wanted to be with her at every opportunity they could. João had a week off in November, where we had planned to stay in London but they offered to pay for our flights and spend the week with them, especially as it was my mother-in-law’s birthday during that period too. I wasn’t inclined to go at all, due to MJ still being so small and the hassle of packing/unpacking which is pretty exhausting! But of course we ended up going in the end. And then again at Christmas time. So by four months old she had been on six flights already. Do I regret it? Yes and no. Yes, because I feel she was very small to be constantly taking in the stuffiness of a plane so often and the horrid air conditioning. But also no because I believe she has gotten use to it very well, she got to be with both of our families and the truth is, it’s only a two hour flight and Portugal is in the same time zone as the UK, so it’s not like she would necessarily be affected with jet lag.
I made to sure to hold off a few months before we would travel again and I’m glad I did. It was good to have a plane rest both for me and for her. We recently flew to Lisbon just a few days ago and she was awake the entire flight. It had happened in the last two where she would sleep about half of the flight and the other half she would be awake. So it was definitely a fun experience having a near to seven month old fully awake and energetic for an entire flight. What was great was that she breast fed during take off and landing. She ate all of her dinner, whilst I sat her up on the pull out tray. And she made friends with most of the people sitting around us by playing funny games with them and just smiling her gorgeous smile to everyone.
Our first flight was with TAP and then all others since have been with British Airways. They have a great keepsake that I believe all airlines should have. It’s called the Sky Flyers Logbook. It’s a little booklet where you placed your little one’s details and then there a few pages where each flight that your baby has with BA, the captain will sign it off with all the details of the date, flight number, plane model, air miles and their own signature too! It really is a great memory to have and when they reach a certain number of miles they get a sticker to fill up their booklet. We were given this on our first BA flight, so I get them to fill it out each time.
I have been fortunate enough to have had either João or my mother with me when flying with Maria João. On my return to London in a few days, it will be my first flight alone with her so wish me luck!
Check out the following tips to help you when travelling with a baby!
-Breastfeed during lift off and landing to avoid ears from popping
-Nasal drops to avoid baby getting a blocked nose
-Change your little one’s nappy before getting on the plane
-At least two sets of clothes for any incidents for short haul and I would suggest four sets for long haul
-Take a hat for your little one to wear on the plane to avoid getting sick, due to the strong air conditioning
-More nappies than you would usually have in your nappy bag
-Toys to entertain
-Ask for mileage baby book